SWWTU president general Michael Annisette addresses members of the media during JTUM’s press conference outside the Attorney General’s Office, Government Campus, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain, on Tuesday.

“Present yourself for work!”

That was the stern advice given to unvaccinated public sector workers yesterday from the Joint Trade Union Movement.

The union heads held a press conference on the steps of the Attorney General’s Office in Port-of-Spain to raise their concerns about the government plans to create safe zones in public offices. According to the policy, workers must be vaccinated by mid-January or if not, they will be furloughed—sent home with no pay.

Since the announcement by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, the decision has not been sitting well with the trade union movement.

The unions also met with Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and even delivered a letter to the Prime Minister.

But yesterday, President General of the Oilfields Workers Unions and the Joint Trade Union Movement, Ancel Roget wants public workers who are both vaccinated and unvaccinated to report for work come January 17, the first working day after the deadline.

“I want to tell all workers do not be set up, present yourself for work on the 17th and continue to present yourself. Let them deny you entry into your place of work and that will be tantamount to illegal lockout which the trade union and our legal team is waiting to deal with those issues. I repeat do not set up yourselves by staying home present yourself to work, you are currently engaged within certain terms and conditions of employment and therefore that has not been renegotiated by your union and therefore you should go to work on the 17th of January and let the government lock you out of your employment.”

The unions have made it clear they are not against the COVID-19 vaccines but pro-choice.

Roget added the decision made by the Government is impacting the laws of Trinidad and Tobago.

“The introduction of laws to treat with this will impact the Industrial Relations Act, the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, the Data Protection Act, the OSH Act and the Public Service Regulations among others. It is not a simple thing as just saying get vaccinated and if you are not vaccinated you cannot work and that it is also illegal to do that at it is tantamount to a lockout. But this new law that they want to introduce is going to interfere with many provisions of our existing laws”, Roget said.

He added, “Therefore again, there can be no meaningful discussion if you have already made up your mind more than that you have already begun to implement the decision because at T&TEC has already begun requesting from workers that they show their vaccination status. MTS has already begun along with SWMCOL and therefore it is the heights of arrogance when you made a decision and then tell us to come let’s talk, so we call again for the retraction and for them to desist and stand down.”

The Joint Trade Union Movement is also calling for the intervention of the Minister of Labour Stephen Mc Clashie. The union wants the Minister to come forward and the union complained that since he has taken up office he has not met with the labour movement.

Meanwhile, the National Trade Union Centre’s, General Secretary, Michael Annisette called on the workers to report to work and to not give the employer their vaccination status saying it is personal information.

“I am telling workers do no panic, let us stay together. The government is saying that they have a contingency plan so be it and I hope they have a contingency plan to offload cargo, to see about electricity and water and also to go into the hospitals and be nurses and doctors”, he said.

Annisette said, “You cannot treat citizens with so much disdain and disrespect and don’t expect us to respond you are taking bread and butter from the mouths of our children, it hurts that in the 21st century a government that looks like us is hurting us.”

The Joint Protective Services also called on fire, prison and police officers not to heed any call to share vaccination status.

The trade union movement is expected to make a further statement on the public sector safe zone police later this week.